This is an unabashed story of romance. It could have happened in any town, to almost anyone. But for two people, it has a special meaning -- the rebirth of hope and love.

Not too long ago in Alexandria, there lived a pearly haired widow named Mamie Foote. At 66 and alone after many years of marriage, Mamie Foote found her days growing longer and grayer.

Then, one day, in the corridors of Alexandria Hospital, Mamie Foote met Howard Wyllie. Both remember the date clearly: April 17.

Foote had been a volunteer at the hospital for two years. Wyllie, 72, had just started. He had come to Alexandria from Florida for an operation and was recuperating at his son's home in Springfield when his daughter-in-law, a nurse at Alexandria Hospital, prodded him into joining the volunteer program.

Soon after Wyllie met Foote, their friendship blossomed. At first, they would meet for lunch; then he began driving Foote home from work every day; then there were a few "real" dates.

But Wyllie had not planned to stay in Alexandria, and two weeks after he met Foote, he returned to Florida.

Mamie Foote, however, recalling a day she and Wyllie had spent in the West Virginia countryside, didn't think, 1,000 miles mattered.

"We knew . . . we wanted to be together," Foote said. "I don't mean it was one of those mush-over things -- I was just at peace with him."

"We liked being together," echoed Wyllie, Even before Wyllie left for Florida, his children and the hospital staff were convinced that love was in the air.

"We knew something was happening," said Howard's daughter-in-law, Bina Wyllie. "All of a sudden he was delighted. He had been depressed since his wife died in December. Then he began talking about Mamie. We thought it was wonderful"

Soon, the letters from Florida began arriving at Mamie Foote's home.

First, Wyllie mentioned he missed her. Then he said he was serious, that the "Toyota-ing around town had been fun, but that he wanted to her to visit.

Foote thought about the invitation. She consulted her children and her minister. Go, they said.

Foote went July 24 and returned August 13, an engaged woman. After that, there was a rush of plans. Wyllie sold his house in Florida; Foote began making room in her small apartment for a new husband

Last Saturday, in the Del Ray United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Howard Wyllie and Mamie Foote exchanged their wedding vows. Howard wore a blue suit and Mamie, a rich maroon dress.

Howard's son, Bill Wyllie, served as best man, and Mamie's daughter, Shelia Foote, was matron of honor. Children and grandchildren toasted to Mamie and Howard's happiness. Friends helped them cut the cake. And then, amid a traditional shower of rice, Mamie and Howard went home -- together.

It was, as we told you, a story of unabashed romance. But Mamie Foote Wyllie tells it better. "I knew (Howard) really loved me the day he said, 'Please don't ever leave me.'"